As Batavia High School’s Class of 2022 sat quietly Saturday on VanDetta field dressed in blue and white robes, many family members and friends hurriedly tried to find a seat in the packed stadium before the ceremony began.
It was perfect weather with no rain in sight, though the scorching temperature of 85 and climbing made for some hot metal seats. Marya Cole had found a spot to watch her niece Jaylene Dersham receive her diploma, but soon had to duck under cover for some relief.
“It was so hot up there,” Cole said, finding some shade in the stadium lobby. “I’m very proud of her. She lost her dad when she was young. But she went all the way through, and I’m really proud of her.”
Jaylene, 17, who was a notable Blue Devils Girls Basketball player, was one of 169 graduates to cross the makeshift stage and realize a dream along with her fellow seniors. She had decorated her cap in honor of her father, Jayson Dersham, with the word “Dad” across the top. Cole wasn’t certain what her niece will be doing from here but knows that the new graduate wants to go to college, possibly for nursing or something more secretarial.
That wasn't her proud aunt's concern at the moment.
"She did it; she made it," a smiling Cole said.
Robert Lin, Valedictorian
Although they were saying goodbye to the last days and years of high school, the graduates were reminded of what they accomplished. Class Valedictorian Robert Lin spoke about the hardships of isolation, separation, and the mental and physical turmoil his classmates encountered with a pandemic. "It had a “devastating effect on us,” he said.
Despite the challenges, everyone rallied to come back and finish.
“Throughout these four years at high school, we’ve developed skills, connections, and characteristics to move forward in society,” Lin said. “These events will develop us to be harder, better, faster, and stronger. As today ends, we will all tread our own paths. As we move on, life will have many surprises or events in store for us.”
His nuggets of advice included the phrase “you only live once,” which he encouraged for those willing to take the consequences of trying something new. There’s nothing wrong with taking a shorter path or the long way, he said. Just never give up. Never let yourself down.
“We have to enjoy life to its fullest, and the changes it throws at us will keep us eager, and when they start coming, they don’t stop coming,” he said.
The 100+ average student received the E.G. Richmond Award for having the highest average in all courses of study. He also completed and excelled in 13 college or AP level courses, doing his homework assignments in between helping customers at his family’s restaurant after school. A role model to his fellow students, he was described as always wanting to be better.
Elizabeth McCarthy, Salutatorian
Less than one point under Lin's average was the 99.9 of Salutatorian Elizabeth McCarthy. Not only was McCarthy a high school graduate, but, due to her diligence in taking 11 AP and/or dual enrollment courses while in school, she also just graduated from Genesee Community College with an associate degree.
The past four years have been “a wild ride,” she said, also pointing to the challenges of COVID.
“I am so proud of how our class was able to overcome this huge challenge. We would not have been able to overcome such adversity without the help and support of our family and friends, as well as the exceptional staff at BHS,” she said. “I would like to remind everyone to be kind. I’m sure we can all think of someone who has brightened our lives in some way. Someone who was there for us with a helping hand -- or maybe simply a smile -- when we needed it most. I encourage all of us to be the light in someone’s day, in case that person needs it.”
At one point during the speeches, Samantha Koons had stepped into the lobby, where a nice small breeze was flowing through to the parking lot. She and her boyfriend Ed McDonald were there for his 18-year-old son Cory, she said.
“We’re a little emotional that his baby is growing up,” she said. “We’re very proud of him, very proud.”
About a dozen chaperones and security staff kept an eye on the premises during commencement. Some spectators asked about water as the blazing sun kept its heavy gaze on participants and the audience. Security guard and BHS 1997 grad Nick Burk attends every graduation, he said, and the events “traditionally are very well attended.” He also coaches three sports and has become invested in the students' success, he said.
“It’s really exciting and awesome to see students whom I’ve known since they were 14 or 15 … some are going into the military, some are starting their careers,” he said. “It’s great to see that development and growth.”
Photos by Steve Ognibene. To view more photos and to purchase photos, click here.
Top photo: Batavia High School Principal Paul Kesler addresses the Class of 2022 during commencement Saturday at VanDetta Stadium in Batavia. Speakers included Superintendent Jason Smith, who gave an analogy about filling one's jar first with golf balls -- the big priorities in life -- before worrying about the smaller things, represented by pebbles and sand. He later gave each student an inscribed symbolic blue golf ball to remind them "about prioritizing your goals as you move into this next exciting phase of your lives." Molly George and Laura Tenebruso -- longtime teachers at the city school district -- present a poem made up by several of the seniors' quotes. Photos by Stephen Ognibene.